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Inside the Twisted Psyche of Catherine

Jeff Rubenstein's Avatar + Posted by Jeff Rubenstein on Jul 22, 2011 // Sr. Social Media Manager

There are plenty of Mature-rated games. But look past the killing and the cursing and you’ll see that many Mature-rated games are anything but. Catherine is an exception, the rare Mature-rated title that tackles a truly mature theme – infidelity – in a thought-provoking and unusual way.

If you’re a gamer, you’ve likely heard about Catherine. Whether you read the somewhat skewed early impressions or the more recent glowing reviews, Catherine is probably not the game you think it is. It doesn’t help that early screens of the game played up the sultry, eponymous co-star of the game. If nothing else, Catherine is unique: a puzzle game with fast, tense pacing and a well-developed storyline that has something to say.

Catherine is a hard game to describe, so I recommend downloading the free demo that hit the PlayStation Store last week. Shortly after the demo landed, Aram Jabbari from publisher and developer Atlus dropped by to speak with us and show us a deeper dive into the strange world of Catherine. I focused my talk on questions that the demo didn’t answer.

Many of Atlus’ biggest hits – including recent entries in the Persona series – have been on the PS2. So in making the jump to PS3, Catherine is a milestone for the Atlus team. “Not only is this the first Atlus-developed HD current-gen game,” said Jabbari, “it also happens to be the first current-gen game from the Shin Megami Tensei team, the Persona team. The composer, the character designer, and a number of others have worked on Persona 3 and Persona 4. It was directed by Katsura Hashino, the director of Persona 4. So Catherine is basically the Atlus all-star team’s first current-gen project, and one of the more unique games that the company’s ever created.”

PlayStation Blog: How would you categorize this game? Anime-puzzle-adult-dating sim?”

Aram Jabbari, Atlus: There are several genres that come up. I’ve even seen some people refer to this as an RPG, but we don’t really consider that accurate. A dating sim traditionally entails the goal of finding some significant other, and that’s not really what the focus of the game is. We call it an action/adventure-puzzle game. Probably more of an adventure-puzzle game, but we don’t want people to dismiss how frantic and visceral the puzzle sequences can be. In a lot of ways, it does feel like a platformer, and in a lot of ways there are elements that are more like what you’d find in an action game than in a puzzle game. The core of the gameplay are these tower nightmares, but the adventure element is a huge part as it is a story-driven game.

PSB: How much control do you have over that story?

Atlus: That’s a tough question to answer. The story itself unfolds the same — it’s the ending that changes. Vincent has a lot of moments where the camera zooms in on him and a meter will appear. Based on where you land on that scale, his inner thoughts will be different, which hints at the ending.

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Vincent carries an interactive mobile phone with him in the bar scenes, and can reply to both of his love interests in ways that affect that morality meter. He’ll face additional judgement in the confessional booths that lie in-between the nightmare sections, answering questions such as “Are you more afraid of being with people, or being alone?” Interestingly, your answers don’t just affect the game’s morality meter: they’re also compared to the answers of other players, anonymously, via PSN. But the meter isn’t tracking good versus evil, or right versus wrong. Aram described it as “law and chaos meter,” meaning “how selfish you are versus how altruistic you are.”

PSB: What’s up with that Golden Playhouse overlay you see on screenshots for the game?

Atlus: Golden Playhouse is kind of like a Saturday morning theatre, with a bit of a Twilight Zone vibe: we’re following this guy’s life and what’s going to happen. Trish is the host of that, and she intros us to Vincent, and is also the mechanism by which the game sends you texts to let you know that you’ve unlocked certain things outside of the game.

PSB: How many hours of gameplay are in Catherine?

Atlus: I was telling people eight to 12 hours, but then Phil Kollar from Game Informer comes to me and tells me it took him 14 hours. So eight to 12 is what we’re saying, but eight to 16 is more of what we’re seeing. If you’re actually invest the time and really experience the story, it’s definitely over 12 hours.

PSB: Was this game’s localization process any different than usual?

Atlus: Yes and no. I think there were a lot more cultural challenges. The game was actually written to take place in the States. A lot of fans say it takes place in Chicago, and that’s not really the case. It’s supposed to take place in an undefined American city. So in that sense, the developers did a lot to make it authentic and culturally, there wasn’t a lot to do. But our localizers talk about the challenges that lie in its realness. The characters interactions with each other – some of it is tongue-in-cheek – but most of it is supposed to be real human interaction. And there’s some dialogue things that will come up, including references and jokes, so our localizers go the extra mile. Our localizers say: “it’s not translating the definition, it’s translating the intent.” So a lot of care is taken to find that. Even though the game is so bizarrely unique, visually, it actually I don’t think it was as dramatic a localization effort as one might think.

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Something you won’t see in the demo are the scenes that take place in the town’s bar, the Stray Sheep. These sections are completely optional; you can just head right for the door and back into the game-y world of Vincent’s nightmares. It’s worth poking around, though. The bar sequences flesh out the story, as you can chat with your friends and other barflies, play an old-school arcade game and learn some interesting trivia whenever you finish your drink. If nothing else, after playing Catherine I know a lot more about sake and the history of prohibition as it relates to cocktails now. Getting Vincent to toss back a couple beverages is actually encouraged, as it speeds up his movement in the nightmare sessions.

About that gameplay – it’s tough. Really tough. IGN’s Jim Reilly, a two-time Platinum Trophy earner in Atlus’ notoriously difficult Demon’s Souls, thinks Catherine has it beat. Having played through most of the game, I can safely recommend playing it on Easy, at least the first time. But the challenge is rewarded every time you escape the nightmare, and get a little bit more of the story. In fact, Catherine’s engrossing story is what propels you through the game’s myriad challenges, even when the going gets tough. Which it will!

Catherine will be out on PS3 this Tuesday for $59.99. In true Atlus tradition, there’s also a bonkers collector’s edition that includes a pair of Vincent’s boxers. Go get ‘em, tiger.

//Add Your Own

68 Comments   9 Replies

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1

+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 11:33 am said:

im angry that it costs $60 to purchase. it seems like an interesting game with a great storyline but are all the puzzles the same? are they all that step up block puzzles or can i look foward to more challenging puzzles other than that?


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    + Jeff Rubenstein on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:45 pm said:

    It’s incredibly challenging. The basic premise of the puzzles is the same, but it’s a lengthy game.


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    + Aram Jabbari on July 22nd, 2011 at 5:44 pm said:

    Not only do the puzzles become more challenging, but you’ll encounter new wrinkle after new wrinkle… New enemies/obstacles to out-think and out-navigate, new block types and items to master, and level designs and block patterns to wrap your head around.

    Believe us, there’s a reason the reviews so far have gushed about the tower nightmares. Even for the generally puzzle-averse player, they’ll grow on you.


2

+ DZORMAGEN on July 22nd, 2011 at 11:35 am said:

Hey Jeff, I follow you on Twitter, and I read that you said Catherine is a pretty hard game. What difficulty are you playing the game on?

I am not into games like this , but the story, and visual art looks too good to pass up. I will buy this game on Tuesday when it comes out!


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    + Jeff Rubenstein on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:46 pm said:

    Thanks, we’ve spoken before on Twitter. I’m playing on Normal, and it’s challenged me strongly – but not enough to make me stop.


3

+ Kirkpad on July 22nd, 2011 at 11:47 am said:

The block puzzle gameplay is actually really fun. I’m interested in this title for sure. We’ll see how my wallet is when it launches.


4

+ Neil on July 22nd, 2011 at 11:48 am said:

I cannot wait for this. Pre-ordered it a while back.


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+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 11:53 am said:

i enjoy games i can play with my GF and this is one of those games. i recently finished Heavy Rain(exclusive to PS3) and that was one of the best games ive played in its genre and kind of reminds me of Catherines storyline and mature rating. once i finished the Catherine demo with my GF she immediately wanted to buy the game and keep following Vincent on his quest of love, life, and freedom. i guess for 8-12 hours of gameplay it should be worth $60 but i just cant see myself playing it over and over again to get my moneys worth. the great thing about Heavy Rain(exclusive to PS3) was not only the ending was different but every choice you made affected the next scene and thats what made it so replayable and enjoyable. cant wait to see that Catherine has to offer after its discounted 6 months from now


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    + Jeff Rubenstein on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:46 pm said:

    I think in your case – and I played Heavy Rain with my wife – having someone to help you think through puzzles is a good idea.


6

+ JonJonXD on July 22nd, 2011 at 11:58 am said:

I really can’t wait for this. It looks so good and the demo was amazing.

I can’t wait to get my “Love is Over” Edition come Tuesday :D

I hope the rumors about unlockable avatars and etc. are true


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    + Jeff Rubenstein on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:47 pm said:

    I haven’t unlocked any avatars yet, but then again, I haven’t beaten the game. I want a Vincent avatar!


7

+ D-Squad3 on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:02 pm said:

I need to get this game!!!


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+ chaoszero14 on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:04 pm said:

Can’t wait for Tuesday! I’ll be picking up the Deluxe Edition.


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+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:09 pm said:

i found it strange that they would show a close up of the ant walking at the edge of the table when we first get to see Catherine in the restaurant. im in full support of nudity in video games and should have it more often. i remember on PS2 you could do your thing with 2 girls in God of War. i must have played that mini game like 5 times just to mess around. the blonde girl that mysteriously show up at Vincents table looks nice and curvy, hope shes the one with brief nudity and not Catherine.


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    + Jeff Rubenstein on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:48 pm said:

    The blonde girl *is* Catherine.


10

+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:13 pm said:

side note:
if you ever wanted to control what you do in your dreams all you need to do is LOOK DOWN AT YOUR PALMS once you fall asleep and begin to dream. it takes a little practice for you to remember to LOOK DOWN AT YOUR PALMS but once you do you’ll be able to choose what you do in your dreams rather than just watching yourself do it…try it and send me a message through PSN and tell me if it worked.


11

+ avenue- on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:41 pm said:

Waiting for the European release date..


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+ arcticjim on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:46 pm said:

Why arent there any good teen or everybody rated games? Other than Little Big Planet and inFamous there aren’t any good games. Wii has good E rated games why doesn’t ps3? You seriously need to start making some good non-M rated games.


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    + Jeff Rubenstein on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:49 pm said:

    There are far more T and E-rated rated games than M-rated games…


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+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:52 pm said:

wait, so the blonde that show up at the bar is catherine?


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    + Aram Jabbari on July 22nd, 2011 at 5:45 pm said:

    Son_of_Ghost,

    If you give the demo, currently available on PSN, a go, this particular question will be answered :)

    (and yes, that’s Catherine with a C!)


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+ fourfour44 on July 22nd, 2011 at 12:55 pm said:

The game is great, really loved the Japanese demo and pre-ordered it immediately. Unfortunately had to cancel the pre-order when it was announced the correct audio would not be included. I know I made the right decision after playing the English demo with the horrendous voice acting. I’ll be there day one to purchase this game if the correct audio track ever gets released with it.


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+ perrandy on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:03 pm said:

havent tried the demo yet for some reason.i think i will try it this weekend….btw, this game have been getting rave reviews by different gaming sites…so, yeah gotta try that demo :)


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+ kingkranz on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:05 pm said:

What a cheesy game with awful graphics. Game is only worth 10 bucks.


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+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:06 pm said:

@kingkranz

so you finished the demo and didnt like it?


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+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:25 pm said:

did anyone use the create block by pressing square on the last level of the demo? i didnt need to use it and was just wondering whats the purpose of it, maybe to get coins. and if you reach the boxes with the sheep on it do you get anything special or are they there for decoration?


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    + Jeff Rubenstein on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:33 pm said:

    You’ll need it eventually…


19

+ Lugoves on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:27 pm said:

Thanks for the write up Jeff. I skimmed it. I passed on the Demo and most of the Videos reviews etc. so I can just enjoy the game for what it is. But if you’re challenged on Normal , I might play “Easy” lol


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+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:33 pm said:

i must admit that climbing the boxes over and over again once you die gets a little irritating but finally passing the level is very satisfying cause you get to watch a little movie clip of whatever vincent is doing after he wakes up. im sure once the nudity starts to appear the levels will get even harder to pass.


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+ Zezzler on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:35 pm said:

Nice shout-out to Jim Reilly. He knows his demon’s souls for sure!


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+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:46 pm said:

i just realized what makes going up the boxes so irritating, the fact that whenever you move any box it says “EDGE”. to finish the timed level and not get stabbed by a huge fork you need to move at lest 15-20 boxes and thats 15-20 “EDGE” that i have to hear every time i start a level or respawn from a checkpoint


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+ Anddo on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:52 pm said:

I pre-ordered the after trying the demo (the power of a good demo). I followed this title since the initial trailer. I kinda lost interest after I read it was puzzle heavy. However, the demo opened me up to the puzzle aspect of the game. The story seems like it’s going to play out well (multiple endings is a huge plus). So yeah, can’t wait until the 26th!


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+ kingkranz on July 22nd, 2011 at 1:56 pm said:

Its not even a game. It’s a pathetic cartoon with cheesy puzzles.


25

+ DZORMAGEN on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:10 pm said:

Yes Jeff we have, You have helped me a lot with a lot of things! Like I said in an e-mail, you should be the president of Sony! :)


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+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:23 pm said:

@kingkranz

you sound confused my friend., first you call it a cheesy game, and a game that cost $10 and now you say its not a game but a cartoon with cheesy puzzles. what is it exactly?


27

+ RE_Player on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:23 pm said:

Out of 25 user comments Son_of_Ghost is 9 of them… take it easy man.


28

+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:26 pm said:

and what didnt you like about the demo exactly? i want to know your opinions…


29

+ big-ant59 on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:27 pm said:

It would have been a buy for me if it was a downloadable game, too bad it’s disk based only. And I would rather pick up ultimate marvel vs. capcom 3, AND little big planet 2, and with borderlands at only $20 with all the DLC….catherine is a great game and I would really like to play it, but there’s so much coming out im overwhelmed, and it only makes sense catherine is at the bottom of the list of things i would like to buy. The only way I see myself playing catherine is if I win that contest I entered at IGN.


30

+ big-ant59 on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:30 pm said:

Hey hulk! Lets get this straight, BOTH the girls are named catherine. on is Katherine, with a “K” the other is Catherine with a “C”


31

+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:30 pm said:

@RE_Player

out of 28 user comments only you are hating on what im saying.

you do you and i’ll do me and your moms

take it easy man…


32

+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:32 pm said:

oohhhh thanks for clearing that up for me big-ant59, what a nice guy…


33

+ headronefish on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:44 pm said:

Hmm, so close. I’ve been looking forward to this for months now. Got the standard edition preordered but I was disappointed that the artbook is some tiny little thing. The demo was a nice taste but I wish I could’ve picked different difficulty settings, it seemed way too easy after everyone talked about how hard the game is supposed to be. I liked the little texting game at the Catherine website, too.


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+ ROLO_ONFIRE on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:47 pm said:

@12-arcticjim
there are more good games that aren’t rated M, there’s also ModNation Racers, Rock Band, many Move games, the Uncharted saga, many PSN games (echocrome, braid, etc) and more


35

+ Son_of_Ghost on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:48 pm said:

@RE_player

if you didnt know already:

Comments are the lifeblood of the PlayStation.Blog, and we are encouraged to keep the conversation going in a relevant, constructive way. thats what ive been doing with my comments, your comments are you just being a JERK…


36

+ the_FREELANCER on July 22nd, 2011 at 2:48 pm said:

The demo completely sold me on Catherine, can’t wait to pick it up next week. It’s funny, I don’t think I would have played this game 10 years ago but now that I am in my early 30′s the game seems to really strike a nerve. Can’t wait!


37

+ jqtaxpayer on July 22nd, 2011 at 3:07 pm said:

This doesn’t seem to really be my type of game, but kudos to you for actually having the guts to make something different.


38

+ Phantasmguy on July 22nd, 2011 at 4:13 pm said:

Is it true that the game was so difficult in the JPN release, that we’re getting a patched version that tweaks the difficulty to make the game easier?


39

+ Dinsouza on July 22nd, 2011 at 4:24 pm said:

I hope Catherine gets a downloadable release eventually… Then I’d be able to buy it.


40

+ Surfaced on July 22nd, 2011 at 6:31 pm said:

this game deserves every last bit of critical acclaim its getting. Finally, something totally fresh.

But I have to confess… its SO much fun to watch people get all confused about this game. They complain that there’s no variety in the core games market, but when something new comes along, they don’t even realize this is the cure.


41

+ Crunge92 on July 22nd, 2011 at 6:52 pm said:

HA! Finally, an M-rated game that 12-year-olds WON’T be begging their parents to buy for them!


42

+ jose213jose on July 22nd, 2011 at 7:59 pm said:

the game looks great but will there be download version of it? And when i do buy it, i am going to start on the hard mode sense i love to plays on hard mode only. Hard mode game is what i like to do the most to test my skills as game player and see if i still get what it takes to be the best in the world. Before i got PS3 i beating all my games on PS3 on hard modes and even more hard mode to test my self and i pull it off like it was nothing.


43

+ jose213jose on July 22nd, 2011 at 8:00 pm said:

PS2 i mean, guess i was not checking my miss spell things in here lol :)


44

+ Jedah_PR on July 22nd, 2011 at 8:24 pm said:

I had the DE reserved for this game until last week when I tried the demo; and saw how horrible the NA VA’s were and the fact that there’s no dual audio option, I immediately went and cancelled my pre-order and moved those $10 to WKC2 & Arkham City 2.

Sorry but Laura Bailey was the WORST option ever to cast as Catherine. Not to mention Troy Baker is the most generic VA in the industry. Every role he plays, he always sounds the same…


45

+ jpbaka on July 22nd, 2011 at 8:57 pm said:

I love Atlus but just a warning to everyone, the English voice acting is pretty bad and flat. Maybe I’m a little biased because I’m fluent in Japanese and I already have the import, but it’s a shame they took out the Japanese voice acting because it was so SO much better.


46

+ bakerarmy on July 22nd, 2011 at 10:10 pm said:

Played the demo…pass on this for me. Not for 60 bucks. I thought this was gonna be a psn game at first. Cool game but I will just play some Qbert


47

+ juanpipe on July 22nd, 2011 at 10:42 pm said:

I have to ask, will this be available as a download purchase, I’d really rather have it as a download in my HDD.


48

+ xBarritx on July 22nd, 2011 at 11:24 pm said:

There was a noticeable sound issue in the demo. Is this going to be addressed with a patch or anything for the full game?


49

+ favian on July 23rd, 2011 at 2:58 am said:

Pre ordered the limited edition. Very stoked. Thank you for bringing fresh experiences in a market full of more of the same. It’s a miracle this game is even being released in the US.


50

+ favian on July 23rd, 2011 at 3:03 am said:

The scale of this game is too large for a PSN digital release, what is with these requests?


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